“Magical thinking” is when people irrationally see connections or cause-and-effect relationships where there are none. Luck, prayer and superstition are all examples of magical thinking.
Turns out people who engage in magical thinking might be the life of the party.
Magical thinking is also important for letting loose and having a good time. Brugger finds a positive correlation between magical ideation and the ability to find pleasure in life. More magic, more fun. (As long as reality stays within arm’s reach.) “Those students who are not magical are not typically those who enjoy going to parties,” he says. “To be totally unmagic is very unhealthy.”
In fact, deluded people are happier.
Via Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom:
…evidence shows that people who hold pervasive positive illusions about themselves, their abilities, and their future prospects are mentally healthier, happier and better liked than people who lack such illusions.
I’ve posted before about the multitude of benefits delusion can offer:
- People with positive illusions about their relationship are more satisfied, score higher on love and trust and have fewer problems.
- “…People who were unrealistically idealistic about their partners when they got married were more satisfied with their marriage three years later than less idealistic people.”
- Irrational overconfidence increases producitivity and improves teamwork.
- “Self-deception has been associated with stress reduction, a positive self-bias, and increased pain tolerance, all of which could enhance motivation and performance during competitive tasks.“
- Superstition can be performance enhancing. This is why someone wishing you luck can actually make you do better.
Human beings are overconfidence machines. Paul J. H. Schoemaker and J. Edward Russo gave questionnaires to more than two thousand executives in order to measure how much they knew about their industries. Managers in the advertising industry gave answers that they were ninety-per-cent confident were correct. In fact, their answers were wrong sixty-one per cent of the time. People in the computer industry gave answers they thought had a ninety-five per cent chance of being right; in fact, eighty per cent of them were wrong. Ninety-nine per cent of the respondents overestimated their success.